spinwatch

PODCAST TWO

In this one I speak with Professor David Miller of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

David Miller is the author/co-author/editor of several books including “A Century of Spin: How Public Relations Became the cutting Edge of Corporate Power” and “TELL ME LIES. Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq.” He is also the co-founder of http://www.spinwatch.org and http://www.spinprofiles.org. He occasionally appears on the BBC too,  including this rather amusing one from Newsnight.

In fact, in this podcast we discuss the BBC, it’s history and origins, how it has been controlled and manipulated by governments and how all this fits into the wider media context.

I hope the production is a little better on this one than the last.

If you go to THIS LINK HERE then you can listen to it online or download it as an mp3. You want the VBR MP3 link where it says ‘Audio Files’.

You can also LISTEN ONLINE HERE

Hope you like it and thank to ourmedia.org for making a great little service.

SPINPROFILES

Just wanted to let you all know about a wonderful new resource for bloggers, journalists, activists, concerned citizens etc.

Spinprofiles.org is in the form of a wiki and as it explains on the front page…

SpinProfiles documents the PR and propaganda activities of public relations firms and the public relations industry engaged in managing and manipulating public perception, opinion and policy. SpinProfiles also includes profiles on think tanks, front groups funded by industry and industry-friendly experts who work to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of transnational corporations or other special interests.

SpinProfiles focuses on transparency issues by profiling and cataloging the activities of lobbyists, lobbying firms and other corporate lobby groups.

Propaganda in war and peace and the activities of states in deceptive communications and special interest lobbying is also a focus with major collections of articles on British propaganda, the theory and practice of counterinsurgency, the neoconservatives, the Israel lobby and the terror experts and the associated terrorism industry, which do so much to distort public policy in the ‘war on terror’. SpinProfiles also documents the propaganda, disinformation, and covert action activities of states, intelligence agencies, and their associated networks.

http://www.spinprofiles.org

ABOUT A YEAR ON

About a year on from when I mentioned this report, another one has came out with roughly the same conclusions.

The reports are saying that contrary to the climate sceptics claims there is no way that cosmic rays from the sun are the main cause of the climate changes we are now seeing.

Further

Presenting their findings in the Institute of Physics journal, Environmental Research Letters, the UK team explain that they used three different ways to search for a correlation, and found virtually none.

So, given that their appears to have been a genuine awakening about the causes and probable catastrophic effect of human-induced climate change, why is this all coming up again now?

Well, part of the reason is to be found in an excellent piece by Bill Berkowitz in which he explains that climate sceptics and their funders have not given up the ghost yet and in fact are continuing to fund and try to devise new ways to dupe everyone…

Global Warming Skeptics Plot New Strategies to Combat ‘Climate Alarmists’

By Bill Berkowitz

Kert Davies, a campaigner for Greenpeace, called it “the largest convergence of the lost tribe of skeptics ever seen on the face of the earth.” Frank O’Donnell, head of Clean Air Watch, told The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin that the conference “looks like the climate equivalent of Custer’s last stand.” The League of Conservation Voters’ Gene Karpinski, said he was “sure that the flat Earth society had a few final meetings before they broke up.”

Despite these biting critiques, several hundred global warming skeptics and deniers gathered in the beginning of March at the Marriott New York Marquis Times Square Hotel in New York City for The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. The conference, organized by the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, a conservative public policy institute, and co-sponsored by dozens of conservative organizations, including the Business and Media Institute, a project of the right-wing Media Research Center — aimed to cast doubt on the science of global warming, organize future “skeptic” conferences, and complain about how those not convinced that global warming is an imminent problem, or that it is caused by human activity, have been demonized by the media. “Distinguished scholars from the U.S. and around the world,” that have had the courage to question global warming, have been “ignored, and often even censored and demonized” by the mainstream media, the promotional materials for the conference charged. In a “Background” piece, conference organizers claimed that “They [the scholars] have been labeled ‘skeptics’ and even ‘global warming deniers,’ a mean-spirited attempt to lump them together with Holocaust deniers.

(more…)

HOW TO NOTICE HALF AN ELEPHANT

Andy Rowell over at spinwatch has done a good blog on something I have mentioned once or twice before…

I mentioned it here, here and here . Oh and here and I made this picture about it too.

It is about how some people are starting to wake-up to the crisis we face but it is still not deemed important enough to interfere with Britney-vision.

Free Flying into Climate Chaos – by Andy Rowell

If the scientists are right climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. Hardly a day goes by without a dire warning of rising temperatures, increased drought, more violent weather, and melting ice-caps.

observer3.jpgOne of the criticisms of the mainstream media is that, when it comes to ecological issues, they might preach others to change their ways, but are unable to do so themselves. Editorially they may take a progressive stance on climate change, but their paper is still filled with offers for cheap flights and planes.

Sometimes the irony is just too much: Take the front page of Sunday’s Observer . The paper ran the headline “Glaciers melt ‘at fastest rate in past 5,000 years”. To accompany the news piece there was a link to the feature article “Lost glaciers start countdown to climate chaos”. Underneath was an advert for Ryanair offering: “1 million free seats: No Taxes, fees or charges”.

The Observer warns us about climate chaos, but continues to take advertising from companies that are directly responsible for the coming chaos.

What makes this so important is the media are often the windows through which we see the world. If we open a paper and see adverts for fast cars it makes it acceptable to drive one, if we see offers of cheap flights it makes it acceptable to go on one.  However in the past, the Reader’s Editor for the Observer’s sister paper, Ian Mayes has conceded that “’No one I have spoken to in the Guardian believes the curtailment of … airline advertising is a serious option.”

This begs the question, how far will we have descended into chaos before papers like the Observer deem that such advertising is unacceptable. You can be sure that by the time they do act, it will be too late.

THE SEVEN DEADLY SPINS

What with the propaganda building up for an attack on Iran I thought it was timely to post a review of a book I did a while ago.

I think the main theories of the book would hold good for what is going on this time as well…

The Seven Deadly Spins – by Mickey Z

“Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit atrocities”  – Voltaire

There have been quite a few pseudo-social science books out lately – effectively polemics with footnotes. A book like this, where the material has to be written in such a way as to fit the title, can’t lay claim to the sort of analysis that you (might) find in a social science textbook – despite the extensive referencing. Then again, why should it? The majority of people do not read textbooks.  It’s a book and the only qualification should be if it’s a good book and it makes a point or not. This is a good book.

 

It’s written chronologically but does not begin with a particular date or war and then carry on to the next conflict. The first deadly spin is what we would expect to find official sources saying before or at the beginning of hostilities and the last deadly spin is what happens after the battle – it doesn’t really matter which conflict it is. The main thrust of the book is to illustrate that the same swindles, misrepresentations and downright lies have been used for hundreds of years. The episodic style of news reporting means that dissenting voices can also fall into this trap and would do well to try and avoid it. Napoleon said that it is not necessary to falsify the news, merely to delay to bad news until it no longer matters. If those who object to certain actions or reports are forced into a cycle of action and reaction then the bigger picture gets lost.

 

Too often wars, events or spins are reported as single issues. What Mickey Z is saying (correctly) is that the same spins are consistently used but given an update or changed to suit wherever the fighting is taking place. He has written this book to illustrate that governments have been crying wolf for years and yet most of us still fall for it.

 

If events are put in a clearer historical context issues could be better illuminated. As David Barsamian says “What the media do nationally is to create an amnesiac-like feeling – there’s no context for actions, there’s no background; there’s no history. Things just happen”.

 

Of all the criticisms of the mainstream media’s reporting of Iraq one of the most consistent complaints was the lack of background and context in the reports (e.g. who put Saddam in power, gave him weapons etc etc). The resources of the major media allow them to put forth viewpoints pervasively and persuasively. Objectors are then forced into reaction on minor issues. There is not always time to put things into a larger context. If the dissenters win on a particular issue then the next spin is always prepared and ready to go. First it was WMD’s and that was exposed so then it moved to WMD programmes, that didn’t work so then it was to remove Saddam and so on.

 

Mickey Z has put context and background into the spin surrounding these wars. In Iraq ‘Bad intelligence’ is the excuse after the fact. Compare this to the ‘bomber gap’ under Eisenhower – subsequently it was discovered that the gap was heavily in favour of the US. The excuse given a few years later was bad intelligence. A few years on and it was the missile gap under Kennedy. Roughly the same ‘problem’, exactly the same excuse. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was subsequently revealed to have rested on ‘bad intelligence’. If we analyse a single piece of spin, counter-spin or commentary about Iraq or any other war we only see one lie or misrepresentation and then the reaction to it (if we are looking).

 

 

Here are four lines from various journalists and officials that are quoted in the book. I have removed names, dates and places and it becomes almost impossible to tell which war is being discussed.

 

  1. The story of the crucial role of US and European business in saving and establishing the ——- dictatorship in ——- has remained relatively unknown to the general public in spite of the voluminous documentation.

 

  1. Behind the marines came legions of US businesses, ready not only to sell their goods but also [..]drill oil wells, and stake out mining claims.

 

 

  1. Our soldiers here and there resort to terrible measures with the natives. Captains and lieutenants are sometimes judges, sheriffs and executioners. ‘I don’t want any more prisoners sent into ——–’ was the verbal order [..] three months ago. It is now the custom to avenge the death of an American soldier by burning to the ground all the houses, and killing right and left the natives who are only suspects.

 

  1. The United States wished things to turn out as they did, and I worked to bring this about. The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with no inconsiderable success.

 

Although I have picked some of these so as to be deliberately misleading it may come as a surprise that number one is referring to “establishing the Leninist dictatorship in Russia”. Two is referring to a range of conflicts in Latin America, three is about the Philippines (Manila is the missing word) and four, although it could be a look into the future when/if John Bolton gets the UN job, is referring to the massacres in East Timor.

 

For someone who has studied the propaganda system this book will not provide many massive new insights but it will provide some interesting examples, after all, there are so many around that one cannot possibly know them all. One such is the attempt to discredit Indonesian President Sukarno (not to be confused with General Suharto) by making a realistic mask with his features and hiring a porn actor to play him fooling around with a supposed Soviet mistress. Although this never got past the planning stage it is illustrative of the sort of full on media assault that tends to run concurrently with military and/or covert operations: there would be no point in making such a film if you didn’t already know you had a compliant media ready to publicise the propaganda and take your side.

 

 

It’s a good introduction for people who do not know too much about these issues and it’s a good refresher course with some funny bits for those who think they do. I like the idea of arguing back not on the supposed morality or otherwise of any given operation but by simply saying “they have said this before and this is what really happened”. This may be worth bearing in mind if Scott Ritter’s assertions that something is going to happen in Iran soon are correct. This is Mickey Z’s fifth book and I am going to have a look at the others.

 

http://www.mickeyz.net/

OUCH

I just got out of hospital and am typing one-handed. I may or may not have an interesting story to tell you about it tomorrow depending how I am getting on with it.

No partying for me this weekend.. *sigh*

Anyway, in the meantime, I have previously mentioned that I write and do some work for www.spinwatch.org . Here is one of my fellow spinwatchers on the BBC.